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March 8, 1999 - March 21, 1999
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U. of Arkansas Students
Protest Disney Recruiter Visit

 

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By Billy Inman
Arkansas Traveler
University of Arkansas
U-Wire
Published Mar. 8, 1999

 

(U-WIRE) FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Members of the Campus Democracy Collective performed an ad-hoc theater piece to protest Disney's use of sweatshop labor at the Disney corporation's college recruitment session at the Reynolds Center recently.

Other UA students, not affiliated with the CDC were thrown out of the session for asking questions related to Disney's use of sweatshops.

Tied together with a rope, six members of the CDC performing as dwarfs, along with "Mickey" performed "the Seven Dwarfs go to the Third World," to demonstrate how the products made by and for the Disney corporation is are actually made in front of the Reynolds Center.

The dwarfs, named Overworked, Underpaid, Forced Birth Control, Child Labor, Once a Labor Organizer now just Bloody and Stumpy along with "Mickey," who wore a pin saying "I love sweatshops," sang a parody of "Hi Ho" while walking in and around the Reynolds Center.

"Hi ho, hi ho, for pennies a day we sew, and if we ask for higher pay, it's out the factory door we go," they sang, periodically stopping to give their individual performances.

The individual performances culminated when "Mickey" said, "I love sweat shop labor; let's start a union."

The protesters were banned from entering the building by the UAPD.

"The building is still private property and we can keep them out," said Sgt. Greg Foster of the UAPD. "We don't want to infringe on their rights to say what they want, but we have to keep them out of the building."

"It's OK," said the dwarf Overworked. "We've been locked out of factories before."

Several other students, who wish to be referred to by their aliases, were asked to leave for asking questions about Disney's possible use of sweatshop labor.

Special Agent Oncomouse inquired whether there "were internships available for the women in Haiti who work pennies an hour."

A campus representative immediately said that this wasn't the proper forum and that they would have to leave.

Special Agent TS-1 responded by calling the three Disney representatives "robots hired to get cheap, educated janitors and soda jerks for your theme park."

"Another name for the Magic Kingdom is the city of lies," he said.

On their way out of the auditorium, Special Agent TS-1 said "humans one, robots zero!" Then, they donned antenna made of aluminum foil, beeped like robots and ran from the building.

The Campus Democracy Collective is a Registered Student Organization at the UA that works to promote democracy and social justice on campus and in the surrounding community.

The Campus Democracy Collective and the other students contend that Disney is known to have or had sweatshop factories in places including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and China.

A report was published recently by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee concerning an extensive, eight-month study of four Disney factories in China. The report showed that Disney-contracted factories routinely violate both Chinese labor laws and Disney's own Code of Conduct for Manufacturers with respect to overtime, pay and contracts.

Disney has been named by several organizations including the National Labor Committee, which broke the story of underpaid child workers making "Kathy Lee" signature clothing for Wal-Mart, as a sweatshop company.

Andy Burns, a member of the CDC, said the organization is performing in solidarity with the workers of these Disney sweatshops by locally educating citizens concerning Disney's sweatshop practices.

Holly Hoffman, one of the Disney representatives, responded to the protests through a corporate statement.

"I'm not an expert in this area," Hoffman said. "I'm here with the Walt Disney World college program to share the opportunities we offer with the students.

The Disney statement said: "The Walt Disney World Company shares the concerns of the Mennonites over the welfare of workers in factories used by its licensees in Haiti."

It is because of these concerns that Disney requires all licensees, manufacturers and producers of Disney-related products to comply with a rigid Code of Conduct that strictly prohibits the use of "sweatshop labor" or other exploitative conduct.

"To ensure that the company's Code of Conduct is adhered to, Disney has engaged two prestigious independent agencies, Cal Safety and SGS International, to monitor these factories. Disney has also sent its own inspectors to Haiti."

Any individuals or groups who have information about violations of Disney's Code of Conduct are encouraged to contact The Walt Disney Company so the matter can be investigated and appropriate action taken.

"These reports show that Disney is doing nothing about its practices," Special Agent Oncomouse said of the reports regarding China.

The session had a raucous beginning, with the Hog Wild Band and the inflatable Boss Hog "showing what spirit we have at the UA," an organizer of the event said.

Most of the 100 or so attendees seemed undeterred by the protesting.

One student stood up when Special Agent TS-1 was speaking and said that they "we're ruining what we have come to see."

The three Disney representatives spoke about the opportunities and showed films for nearly three hours. Hoffman said that Disney "represents family values and things that I think are right."

"What I'm saying comes from the heart," she said.

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